International workplace design researcher and architect Dr Donna Wheatley has joined architecture practice Warren and Mahoney, bringing with her a focus on innovative workplace design.

Whilst living and studying in Australia, Finland and Germany, Wheatley has been involved in many large-scale commercial, workplace, cultural, education and master planning projects.

Included in her work portfolio is the Australian Museum, Minter Ellison, GPT second generation workplace, ASB workplaces, South East Water HQ, Marrickville Library, Medibank HQ, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney.

Chairman of Warren and Mahoney, Andrew Barclay, welcomes Wheatley’s arrival and says it will bring valuable and informed workplace strategy and design expertise to the practice.

“Our public and private sector clients are developing a new generation of workplace and office projects. We see Donna’s research and practice based experience supporting these projects, and also further developing our presence in Sydney.

“We are delighted to have someone of Donna’s calibre and experience joining us in a leadership position. Her appointment continues our strategy of growing our Australasian reach, and importing and exporting expertise across our five studios,” says Barclay.

Wheatley says her work and research focusses on the people who use spaces.

“A big focus is how to value a person’s experience and their perspective of the designed interior, and how we can use that understanding to make their environment better,” she said.

Since completing her PhD thesis, entitled ‘Branded Spaces: Mental mapping architectural design and experience’, in 2010 at the University of Sydney, she has also completed a research period at University College London.

She predicts that how people and businesses work will change dramatically in as little as five years. However, she doesn’t believe working remotely is the only future.

“People can work from anywhere. But humans are a social animal, and interaction is a hugely important asset to business. The future of the workplace will be socially driven, as a hub for people to connect, for knowledge to be shared and to create new ideas, with flexibility for people to use the space as they wish.

“The design of that space is more important than ever. It’s about creating relationships and corporate identity, so people connect to a space and want to work with the team, rather than remotely.”

“The difficulty with design is there is no one correct result; it’s about understanding who the users are, and reflecting who they want to be. Sometimes the best space will be slick and highly polished, and sometimes it will be creative and informal. It’s about putting your own perceptions aside, and understanding how people might experience the space every day,” she says.